14 January 2013

I would not take any of these drugs

Welcome to the second post in my series This So-Called Disease. In the first installment, I talked about the person who left this comment on someone else's status about Zoloft vs. Celexa.

In that first post in the series, I touched on how the use of the phrase "this so-called disease" and others like it trivialize and make light of mental health in general and Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders specifically. I'm still seething about that...

In this post, I'm going to examine the first sentence of this comment and try to express how it makes me feel as a survivor of Postpartum Depression, Postpartum OCD, and Postpartum Anxiety.
"Pardon me, but I would not take any of these drugs."
When I think of how I would respond to someone saying that, I'm torn between "That's nice. Good thing I'm not you" and something slightly less snarky. In my experience, people who say things like this usually respond to a smartaleck response with something along the lines of getting offended and huffing about "Well I'm only trying to help" or "You don't have to be so rude". Alright. First off, it's rude of YOU to come in here and tell me "I wouldn't take that" and act like you know every facet of my situation and medical history, and the factors my doctor and I are looking at. And that's without even starting to look at how incredibly rude it is to make light of someone's illness and basically blow them off. So don't go firing the first shot and then be upset when the person you've just gone after on a very sensitive topic shoots back.

If I were a better person, my first instinct would probably be to respond with something more along the lines of "Thank you for your input but my doctor and I have decided that this is the best course of action for me. Here are some facts and statistics about Postpartum Depression and mental health. Let me educate you.". But by golly, it gets so frustrating to constantly and continuously hear people who have never been in your shoes tell you that they know better than you what you're going through and how you should handle it.

When someone tells you something like "Pardon me, but I would not take any of these drugs", it's very easy to feel like you're being told that you're making the wrong decision and doing the wrong thing. Considering that when I was fighting this nasty battle, one of the worst parts was my brain telling me that I was doing everything wrong and I was a colossal screw-up, I sure as heck didn't need other people (who didn't really know what they were talking about) telling me what I was doing wrong or what I should do better/differently. I was already beating myself to a pulp,; I didn't need any outside help taking a hammer to me or even handing the hammer to me.

On top of that, you're not me. If you've never been in my shoes, you can't know what you would or wouldn't do if you were me. You can THINK you know, but you don't. Not really. Until you're inside my head and my heart, feeling what I feel, thinking my thoughts, seeing things the way I do through my lens of PPMD (and everyone's lens is a little different, no two people have the exact same filter), you don't know, so stop trying to tell me what YOU would do and try supporting me,

If you really feel that your concerns about whatever treatment I'm considering are that big that you really have to say something, do some research first and then come to me privately and say "Hey, so I have some concerns. Here's what they are, here's why I feel this way, and here's what I found when I looked into it. I'm not trying to tell you what to do. I just want what's best for you and I want you to know that no matter what, I love and support you and I'm always here for you.". Do you see the difference?

It's been my experience that people don't usually like to be told that they're wrong, even about small things. When it comes to something as important and sensitive as how they're considering or choosing to treat an illness, it's even more so.

I don't know many people who go into decisions about things like mental health treatment and antidepressants lightly. I know the person this comment was directed towards certainly isn't. I definitely didn't; not when I was hospitalized the first time, not when I decided to take Zoloft starting at 38 weeks when I was pregnant the second time, and not when I decided to start Zoloft at 35 weeks this last time instead of waiting until 38 weeks. None of these decisions were made lightly. They were all made with a great deal of research and talking to my husband, my medical professionals, and friends who had dealt with similar situations. In my opinion, it is the height of arrogance to set yourself up as an authority on the decisions a person is making about this type of thing when you are anything but, and to tell them loftily "Well that's not what I would do". Not only do you set yourself up to potentially lose a friend and make yourself look like a complete jackass in the process, you can potentially do a lot of damage to the person you're giving this "advice" to.

You wouldn't take these drugs? That's nice. You're not me. You don't know what I'm dealing with. And you're not my doctor. So until you can be supportive instead of being a jerk, just take this particular piece of advice and shove it. I won't tell you exactly where to shove it, I'm sure you can figure that out for yourself.

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